Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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Charles Storrs Hamilton was born at Walbrook, in Nova Scotia, January 3d, 1843, the son of James Edward Hamilton and Anna M. Gesner Hamilton, and died in New Haven March 19th, 1934. His paternal ancestors were of Scotch-Irish descent, and the original ancestor in America came to Rhode Island in 1640, and thence to Norwich, Connecticut. His maternal ancestors were of Knickerbocker-Dutch and French-Huguenot descent, being among the earliest settlers of New York, and his maternal grandfather was a lineal descendant of Konrad Von Gesner, the Zurich scholar and philosopher. The Storrs family of New England was allied to his father's line by marriage - hence his middle name.
Mr. Hamilton's ancestor in the Storrs line was a man of distinction in Connecticut. Samuel Storrs, the progenitor of the Connecticut family, came from Nottinghamshire, England, to Barnstable, Massachusetts, in 1663, and later to Mansfield, Connecticut.
James Edward Hamilton, father of Charles S. Hamilton, was a merchant in the West India trade, and died at the age of eighty-three years.
Mrs. Anna M. Gesner Hamilton, mother of Charles S. Hamilton, was born in New York, daughter of a farmer and trader, and died at the age of seventy-three years.
Of their six children, one, Anna Maria Hamilton Patterson, survives and is now living at Aylesford, Nova Scotia, and at the age of eighty-eight years her physical and mental powers remain unimpaired.
Charles S. Hamilton was a direct descendant of Miles Standish and a lateral descendant of Alexander Hamilton.
With such an ancestral background, it was natural that he should have been a virile, active, brilliant, fearless, independent, leader of the Connecticut bar up to the time of his death at ninety-one years of age. About one week before he died, he tried a case in the Superior Court in Hartford, and he prepared an appeal to the Supreme Court in another case which he had tried in the Superior Court at Waterbury.
Despite his ninety-one years, he remained a strong, erect, forceful figure to the very end and was ever ready to go forth to battle for a cause with great power and ability and with superb disregard of personal consequences involved in conflicting with powerful interests and personalities or of the unpopularity of his cause.
It was also natural that he should have a great love for the sea and that his chief recreation was yachting. At the time of his death, he owned one of the largest and finest yachts which entered New Haven harbor, and several other smaller boats. He was a real deep water seaman with a complete knowledge of the Atlantic seaboard, and when at sea or in a race he took the wheel and was a capable master of his craft in most difficult situations. He was a member of the New Haven Yacht Club, of which he had been a trustee and manager, and also a member of the Shelter Island Yacht Club.
Patents for several inventions, including an adjustable center board, a rudder hinge and a mooring line attachment, were taken out by Mr. Hamilton.
In the summer of 1901, Mr. Hamilton carried the flag of the New Haven Yacht Club for the first time into the British Provinces, flying it on his Schooner Yacht, well named "Fearless."
In his youth Mr. Hamilton was an outstanding scholar, and graduated with honors from Kings College in Nova Scotia, with a B. A. degree. He was a lover of the classics and could quote freely from Shakespeare, the great English poets and the Bible. He read and translated Greek and Latin and spoke French and German.
After his graduation, Mr. Hamilton went to Boston and began the study of law with Congressman Clark, and at about that time he became principal of the High School in Dedham, Massachusetts.
In 1873, he entered Yale Law School, from which he graduated about one year later with an LL.B. degree. He then took a special course in the Yale Medical School in order to fit himself to adequately handle personal injury cases, of which he undoubtedly tried far more than any other member of the Connecticut bar.
During the winter following his graduation from the Law School, he traveled in the Southern States.
In May of 1875, Mr. Hamilton opened an office for the practice of law in the Yale National Bank Building in New Haven, where he remained until 1918, when the building was remodeled.
He then opened his office in the Malley Building, in which office he practiced law until the time of his death.
His fame as a trial lawyer and his practice grew until he became an outstanding figure in the State of Connecticut, with a practice which extended into Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New York. Absolutely fearless and resourceful, a master of his profession, both of practice and pleading, he served his clients with unswerving loyalty. He was a commanding, brilliant trial lawyer before a jury, and an inspection of the court records of this State will show that he tried more jury cases than any of his contemporaries covering a period which began a few years after the Civil War and ended a few months ago.
Some years ago, during one session of the Superior Court in New Haven County, he appeared in court every court day from January to June on one side or the other of every case that was tried.
The records of the Supreme Court will show that he participated in about five hundred appeals. His cases will be found in almost every volume of the Connecticut Reports from the forty-first, including the next volume to be published.
By actual experience, he was familiar with the development of the common and statutory law of the State of Connecticut during the last half century and he saw the present law of appeals developed from the writ of error, and he contributed much to that development.
By actual experience he was also familiar with the changes in political, social and commercial conditions during that period and the development of law in accord with those changes.
In 1888, he was elected a member of the Common Council of New Haven, and the following year was elected alderman. At that time he compiled the Charter and revised the Ordinances of the City of New Haven.
During his long career, he drafted many of the statutes concerning courts and court procedure which now appear in the Revision of 1930. At bar meetings he took an active interest in all proposals for the betterment of the bar. Thus, by his activity in the Superior and Supreme Courts, at bar meetings, and in the Legislature he has contributed in a great degree to the development of the law of the State of Connecticut, and of its court procedure during the past sixty-one years.
Early in his career, Mr. Hamilton caused the enactment of the statute which requires receivers to file semi-annual accounts, despite the opposition of powerful personalities and interests; and he caused the enactment of many other statutes which have been beneficial to both lawyers and litigants.
He had a great capacity for labor. While a member of the bar he performed an enormous amount of legal work; but his mind was so powerful that he enjoyed performing it.. His work was never any burden to him, even though, as was often the case, he had many cases about to be reached on the assignment lists in the several Superior Courts and the Supreme Court at the same time. On one occasion he tried a case in the Superior Court at New London and returned to New Haven and tried another case in the court here on the same day. On another occasion, after trying a case in the Superior Court all day, he returned to his office and prepared briefs in three appeals to the Supreme Court.
He was frequently consulted by other lawyers who had difficult problems to solve, and in recent years a large part of his work consisted of trying cases for other lawyers, and he was ever ready to help a lawyer who sought his assistance, and to them he was gracious, kind and genial.
The basic principles of the common law and of the statues were ever available in his mind to be instantly applied to any statement of facts presented to him. Though he was in active practice since the reconstruction period after the War of the Rebellion and saw generations come and go, and saw most of his contemporaries retire from the field of battle, he remained a militant figure before the court and jury to the very end. He had a marvelous memory, and the events which we read as history of the United States since ante bellum days were to him but matters of personal recollection.
Mr. Hamilton was a man both of vision and action. When the coal strike occurred and there was a shortage of coal in New Haven, he arranged for the delivery of a cargo of coal from Scotland. When he was unable to secure lumber in New Haven, he chartered a ship and bought a cargo in Canada. When the Town Pest House was moved to a residential section of the western part of New Haven, he organized opposition to its location and, under the supervision of the Fire Marshal of the city of New Haven, he ignited the match which sent it up in flames. When a charter had been secured to run a railroad through the western part of the city of New Haven to compete with the New Haven Road, he organized opposition to the plan, and in the Legislature and before the then Railroad Commission and by force of an old statute which he called to the attention of the Commission, he succeeded in preventing the construction of the road.
He appeared as counsel in many of the celebrated cases of public interest of his time, and he was in his element when he was directing a great legal battle and dominating the scene of a great legal drama. Although his criminal practice was not extensive, he was retained by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, and successfully defended in the criminal side of the Superior Court at New Haven, the engineer of the ill-fated Bar Harbor Express, two sections of which had collided, resulting in many deaths. By his connection with that case he acquired considerable influence with railroad employees. He also, with associate counsel, successfully defended the accused trolley men in what is known as "The Strikers' Case" in the criminal side of the Superior Court at Waterbury in a trial which lasted eight weeks. The verdict in that case was brought in at a late hour of the evening, and Mr. Hamilton, when having the court house, was greeted with a great public demonstration of approval.
While he never attempted to curry favor with anyone, and was ever a brave, hard, able fighter, and appeared austere and uncompromising in a legal battle, those who knew Mr. Hamilton best found in him a genial companion, a wise counsellor and a loyal friend.
He was to a great degree responsible for the creation of Edgewood Park which has contributed greatly to the development of the western part of the city of New Haven into a fine residential district.
Independent in politics as in all things, he supported candidates and measures that he deemed worthy, irrespective of political affiliations.
He was a member of Hiram Lodge No. 1 A. F. & A. M., and attended St. Thomas Episcopal Church.
On August 13th, 1878, he was married to Mary Elizabeth Chipman and is survived by two children, Mary G. Hamilton, of New Haven, and William S. H. Hamilton, of Larchmont, New York.